It’s Independence Day! If the commercials are to be believed, it’s time to invite 200 of your favorite friends and relatives over, fill the bed of your pickup truck with ice, toss in twenty cases of the lamest, least-flavorful, rice-or-corn-based American lager you can find, set half a cow down on the grill, and – to quote The Simpsons – “celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”
Sounds good to me … except for all those cans of CoorsBudMiller. What a drag. Most of our founding fathers were brewers and distillers. They would be horrified to see you drinking a Germanic pilsner made from cheap, generic ingredients and watered down to tasteless mediocrity. At least, I’m pretty sure most of them would be. Maybe Adams would’ve been down with it.
I propose an alternate solution, a historical beverage straight from Philadelphia itself, our great nation’s first capital: Fish House Punch.
OK, true, when I hear the words “fish house” I don’t necessarily think of fruity beverages first, and I don’t blame you if you’re raising an eyebrow right now, but hear me out. This drink dates all the way back to the 1730s, when it was supposedly created at Philadelphia’s fishing club, The State In Schuykill. Thus the name Fish House. George Washington himself was known to be a fan, and you don’t get much more “Fourth of July” than that guy!
There are a lot of advantages to this punch. For one, it’s delicious. For another, you can mix it up in great volumes in advance and have it ready when guests arrive. For a third, you can serve it straight and let your guests decide how much they want to dilute it with cold black tea (a traditional addition) or seltzer water. It’s potent and flavorful enough to shine through even with quite a lot of watering down, which should help keep Uncle Bob from deciding it’s a good idea to take a swan dive off the garage roof and into the above-ground pool.
The punch combines rum, cognac, and peach brandy and should be made at least three hours in advance so that the flavors can meld. As far as brands go, the recipe calls for Jamaican rum, and I like either Appleton Estate V/X ($20) or for a splurge, Plantation Jamaican ($40) here. No need to blow the bank on the cognac – Courvoisier VS is fine at $22 or so. Same with the peach brandy; you can pick up a bottle of Hiram Walker for $12 or Marie Brizard Peach for around $20. Just avoid DeKuyper – their mixers have a weird, bitter aftertaste that I don’t endorse.
Here’s the full list of ingredients:
- 8 oz. Sugar
- 28 oz. Water
- 12 oz. Fresh lemon juice
- 25 oz. Amber rum (1 bottle)
- 12 oz. Cognac
- 2 oz. Peach brandy
Warm the water a bit and dissolve the sugar in it. Add the other ingredients and stir to combine. Cover and chill for at least three hours. Traditionally served in a punch bowl with a single half-gallon block of ice, but you can also just keep it in a pitcher and pour it over ice. This recipe should provide a 4 oz. drink (before adding iced tea or seltzer) for at least 20 people. Scale as necessary.
Fish House Punch … the name might be a little weird, but give it a shot. I guarantee you’ll find it a nice change of pace from another boring can of beer, and hey, this way you can load up that pickup truck with fireworks.